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J Neurophysiol. 1998 Mar;79(3):1461-80.

Optokinetic eye movements elicited by radial optic flow in the macaque monkey.

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Department of Zoology and Neurobiology, Ruhr University Bochum, D-44780 Bochum, Germany.


We recorded spontaneous eye movements elicited by radial optic flow in three macaque monkeys using the scleral search coil technique. Computer-generated stimuli simulated forward or backward motion of the monkey with respect to a number of small illuminated dots arranged on a virtual ground plane. We wanted to see whether optokinetic eye movements are induced by radial optic flow stimuli that simulate self-movement, quantify their parameters, and consider their effects on the processing of optic flow. A regular pattern of interchanging fast and slow eye movements with a frequency of 2 Hz was observed. When we shifted the horizontal position of the focus of expansion (FOE) during simulated forward motion (expansional optic flow), median horizontal eye position also shifted in the same direction but only by a smaller amount; for simulated backward motion (contractional optic flow), median eye position shifted in the opposite direction. We relate this to a change in Schlagfeld typically observed in optokinetic nystagmus. Direction and speed of slow phase eye movements were compared with the local flow field motion in gaze direction (the foveal flow). Eye movement direction matched well the foveal motion. Small systematic deviations could be attributed to an integration of the global motion pattern. Eye speed on average did not match foveal stimulus speed, as the median gain was only approximately 0.5-0.6. The gain was always lower for expanding than for contracting stimuli. We analyzed the time course of the eye movement immediately after each saccade. We found remarkable differences in the initial development of gain and directional following for expansion and contraction. For expansion, directional following and gain were initially poor and strongly influenced by the ongoing eye movement before the saccade. This was not the case for contraction. These differences also can be linked to properties of the optokinetic system. We conclude that optokinetic eye movements can be elicited by radial optic flow fields simulating self-motion. These eye movements are linked to the parafoveal flow field, i.e., the motion in the direction of gaze. In the retinal projection of the optic flow, such eye movements superimpose retinal slip. This results in complex retinal motion patterns, especially because the gain of the eye movement is small and variable. This observation has special relevance for mechanisms that determine self-motion from retinal flow fields. It is necessary to consider the influence of eye movements in optic flow analysis, but our results suggest that direction and speed of an eye movement should be treated differently.

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